Monday, January 30, 2012

Whole Foods Epiphany

So the thing is, I am supposed to be writing. Rebecca and I had this discussion on way home from Whole Foods this morning. We went there to get some breakfast at their hot bar and to buy some veggies and other food to have for dinner tonight and for our Veggie Day tomorrow.

We wandered around in the store checking out what new and amazing products they carry. Whole Foods is an interesting place. You can see all manner of bizarre and strange people there, filling their carts with organic, good for you…..whole foods. You might see a guy with his hair slicked back into a ponytail putting a bag of faro next to a stalk or two of fennel. Then there is the skinny lady in a leotard and tights, cross trainer shoes and a Northface jacket, eyeing the eggplant and leeks. Another harrowed mom, with two small children with runny noses and thrift store pinafores are cruising the aisles in search of just the right snack that is organic, gluten free, sugar free, vegan, wrapped in a biodegradable wrapper and still tastes like food, not a science experiment gone terribly wrong.

We hit the produce section and, like all the rest of the “in the know” shoppers, felt the cabbages to find the one with the most heft, examined the peppers to find some that were just the right shade of crimson and pawed through the boxes of blueberries hoping to find some that were still in their prime. Whole Foods is a veritable fantasyland for those with a yen to increase the number of colorful, healthy vegetables in their menu planning.    They even stack and display the vegetables in such a way that you almost feel compelled to whip out your DSLR and take photographs that you enlarge to poster size and hang in your kitchen as art.

Then it was back to the meat department where a chuffy young man sporting a “Whole Foods” apron and hat was only so happy to retrieve the exact tilapia fillets (encrusted in pecan dust and bits) we had spied. Noting that the salmon cakes looked mighty nice, we figured we might as well contribute a bit more to the economy by selecting three plump, packed with Omega-3, round morsels of delectable flaked salmon to add to our eating enjoyment for tonight’s dinner. We will be eating a great meal tonight, that’s for sure!

As we were making our way to the cashier, I noticed a Martha Stewart magazine called ORGANIZE! How can you not trust Martha on such a crucial subject like home organization? I have seen pictures of her house at Turkey Hill or wherever the heck it is that she lives and I can tell you that in HER home, every item does have a place and you can make darn sure, everything IS in its place! So we quickly thumbed through the magazine before we plunked down the ten bucks it cost and determined that it had enough great photos to inspire us to transform our lives and our homes with all of the helpful information contained in this one magazine. And when you put it like that, ten bucks seems like a very reasonable price to pay for something that will make our lives worth living again, not to even mention being able to find the heirloom meat platter at Thanksgiving.

So as we’re standing in line, Rebecca turns to me and casually, because she always starts these conversations casually, says “How much writing have you gotten done?” I sheepishly look at my shoes and mumble something like, “Not much.” If you count emails and comments to stories I’ve read on Yahoo or Democratic Underground or entries on Facebook, I have been very busy indeed. But I think she was definitely referring to something with a bit more substance. I feel a blush of shame come to my cheeks as I realize that part of the reason----one of the MAIN reasons I rationalized such an extended visit to North Carolina---was to get some writing accomplished. And it is true that I have written on my blog and I have composed some text blocks that we will use in our family heritage book we are working on. However, the biggie project I am working on, one that will ultimately become an ebook, I hope, has not been touched. I am not sure why I have avoided it but truthfully, I think I have resisted working on it.

Why have I resisted, I ask myself? Well, for one thing, it is an intensely personal recounting of my experience when I was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 1990-91. That was in some ways the most traumatic event in my life and at least in the top three events. It changed who I was and has had a profound influence on my life, giving me insights to why I was the person I was at the time and giving me the permission and courage to see things in a whole new way. However, reliving some of the things I went through for the transformation is difficult and reminds me of the stress and fear I experienced so long ago. Even things that I thought I had long forgotten or had made peace about were tucked away neatly in the folds of my gray matter and came tumbling out when I sat down at the keyboard to write. Some things surprised me with their ability to evoke such strong emotions and even physical reactions at the mere memory of what I encountered during my treatment.

Then there is the sheer brain work it takes to write and get something down that is both helpful and coherent. Remembering what you did and thought over twenty years ago can be very taxing and stressful. I want to be accurate and I did not keep a journal, something I now regret. I did, however, write many things about other people I met, how I felt and things that angered or annoyed me about the whole process. Some things I wrote for publication in hospital newsletters, some were written for a support group to share with members and I even have copies of a few letters I wrote to hospital administrators when I felt like I had a legitimate complaint about a policy or procedure. So I have some prompts that have helped me recall with a fair degree of accuracy what was important to me at the time. It still is work to get the nouns and the verbs to make sense and not bore one to tears in the process.

So I think the problem is that, along with my natural inclination to procrastinate doing things that are ---shall we say---in some ways unpleasant, the whole project is just fraught with opportunities to resist bringing up painful and frightening memories.   My main task is to remember what I got out of that experience. The process itself was difficult and not one I’d volunteer to do again, although I KNOW I would if I was faced again with a life threatening illness. It changed me, changed the way I think about myself and view the world. I found out I am a whole lot tougher and braver than I thought I was. Some people go through their whole life wondering what they would do if they were told they had a disease that could kill them and in pretty short order, too. I have the comfort of knowing I did not crumble or cave in to the pressure. I know what I did, who I became and how that whole experience changed me forever. So I really, really DO want to share some of that experience with others who may be looking down that same, lonely path I traveled so long ago.

I hope that Rich, Rebecca and Larry will continue to ask me, “How much writing have you gotten done today?” And, “How’s that book coming along, Mart?” I do have something to say and something important to share. My opinions and experiences are as good and valid as anyone else who dares to put their thoughts down on paper or in this day and age, on an electronic whiteboard.

I will work on my book, my blog and probably contribute to a few message boards, stories on Yahoo and assorted other places I find to put in my two cents. I hope that anyone who reads what I wrote today will get strength and courage to tell his or her story, too. We all have a story to tell and since we’re all in this thing together, we have things worth sharing and contributing to help each of us as we take our own journeys along the winding highway of our lives.

Happy Trails to you and don't be afraid to tell your story.   You might change someone else's life with the things you reveal.  



  1. I generally hate shopping, but if I thought I could count on stuff this good coming out of it I'd make it my business to do it as often as possible.

  2. I don't think your account of the experience will be complete without the memories of those of us who were with you through this. We've known each other for 23+ years, so I think I am more than qualified to speak about this time of your life. We were friends for 10+ years when this happened, and I can safely say that the "happy camper" in you met the big "C" challenge head on--like everything else in your life.

    Regardless of the panic you may have been feeling inside, on the outside you were gathering copious amounts of information, assessing every little tidbit, and seeking every kind of positive support available. In addition to this you were very tuned into what Larry was experiencing--esp. his quiet moments.

    You took each step of this journey in the sure footed manner of a Champion--and you won. This was such an inspiration for me, and a wonderful life lesson. If I remember correctly, this was a time in my life when I was, again, re-inventing myself, and the anxiety of this process was a constant battle. We both won the battle, learned a lot . . . and lived to tell about it.


  3. It's tough writing about something so close and sensitive to you personally. I know it conjures up feelings that you would rather not have to deal with. I know what you mean writing about something that affected you so traumatically and changed your life forever. You are a great writer Marcia and I think you can help a lot of women going thru something so personal. Maybe write it in phases on post to your blog. There are so many women who need to hear what you have to say and the blog is a perfect place to start.


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